Former mutineer Alejano explains why Faeldon is no longer Magdalo

MANILA -- Gary Alejano was the one who recruited Nicanor Faeldon to join a mutiny back in the day, but more than a decade later, the former would rather not have anything to do with his fellow former Marine.
“I was the one who recruited him even if he is denying that he is part of the Magdalo right from the start,” said Alejano, now a representative of the Magdalo party list, told reporters in a press briefing on Tuesday, August 15.
If before the two sported the same red armbands, Alejano and Faeldon now find themselves on different sides of the political spectrum. Faeldon was appointed Bureau of Customs (BOC) commissioner by President Rodrigo Duterte. Alejano is part of the opposition bloc in the House of Representatives.
“Let's put this on record that Commissioner Faeldon is no longer part of the Magdalo group. He has been removed from the group since 2005 when he escaped from prison,” Alejano said.
“Because he promised that he would not escape and put the careers of our custodians in danger.... Kaya nung tumakas siya, 'kinulong 'yung ibang guwardiya doon. In fact, may gusto pang magpakamatay doon sa sama ng loob. Ang effect rin sa amin, para kaming mga traydor sa kanila. Nabartolina kami doon (when he escaped, some of the guards were jailed. In fact, one of them wanted to commit suicide out of frustration. We also came off as traitors, so they put us in solitary confinement),” recalled Alejano.
Alejano, Faeldon, and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV – all young military officers then – were arrested shortly after the failed mutiny.
Faeldon and the rest of the Magdalo eventually reconciled until right before the 2016 elections, when Faeldon “suddenly… went out in the open to defend [Duterte] and malign Magdalo,” said Alejano.
Alejano said Faeldon tried to deny “maligning” the Magdalo group, but footage from a press conference proved otherwise. Their relationship didn’t end there, apparently.
“Right after the elections, he contacted me to help him in the BOC. He was trying to enlist my support and help in the BOC, but I said no, I will not [help] because of principle. You lambasted us in the last campaign, then after that, political purpose lang 'yun (you say it's just for political purposes)? No. I do not hold any grudges, but I cannot work that way,” said Alejano.
Faeldon eventually did recruit former soldiers – some of them former mutineers – into the BOC.
Alejano also disowned at least two of them: Gerardo Gambala and Milo Maestrecampo. The two had pled guilty during their trial.
“The effect of them pleading guilty is that we were also guilty, but the difference is that they were pardoned. How about us? We would be convicted and sent to Muntinlupa,” said Alejano.
Faeldon, Gambala, and Maestrecampo are in the middle of a huge scandal in the bureau over how P6.4-billion worth of shabu from China made it past their checks. They have denied corruption allegations. –


As Uber hits the brakes, TNC applicants eye share of riders

MANILA -- While Uber stares at a one-month 'stop light,' others see it as a 'go.'
According to Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) board member Aileen Lizada, they have received many Transport Network Company (TNC) pitches from various businessmen ever since their regulation mess with Grab and Uber.
Marami nang lumapit na mga TNCs…Sa ngayon, as of last week meron nang [nagpresent] na isa and then we were speaking to another,” Lizada told reporters in the sidelines after they junked Uber’s appeal.
(A lot of TNCs which have approached us....For now, as of last week, there was already one which presented, and we are speaking to another.)
Lizada said their first applicant was U-go. Lizada declined to give the service's selling point, however. For the other TNC preparing to file its papers, she hinted that its application will be connected to taxis.
At stake is a demand of 300,000 phone-booked trips per day, which Grab and Uber have cornered to each make P150 million to P180 million a month, the LTFRB estimated.
All of the applicants are welcome, Lizada said, as long as they comply to LTFRB regulations.
For one, car-based TNC U-Hop has not been penalized as it has followed all of the LTFRB's orders.
“We have learned from what had happened,” Lizada said. “At least we now know ano pag-aralan mo (what we need to study).”
“If you give the TNCs too much room there will be always a subject to abuse, so from the start, as you, before you accredit them, you lay down the terms and conditions,” Lizada said.
The new TNCs won't be getting their share easily, however, as the LTFRB has not lifted its self-imposed moratorium which barred new drivers.
This means the prospective TNCs can only get drivers by inviting present LTFRB-accredited Uber, Grab or U-Hop drivers to join their ranks.
Lizada also reminded the TNCs that the livelihood of some 120,000 drivers is on the line.
Kasi kung magkakamali ang TNC, grabe ang epekto (Because when TNCs commit mistakes, the effects are severe). You see it's a domino effect with the [drivers]. We do not want this to happen again,” Lizada said. –

DepEd wants to revive repair funds for calamity-hit schools

MANILA – The Department of Education (DepEd) is calling for the revival of its Quick Response Fund (QRF) to repair schools damaged by typhoons and earthquakes in the past months.
DepEd Undersecretary Alain Pascua said P2.023 billion worth of damage to school buildings were caused by Typhoons Karen and Lawin in October 2016, Typhoon Nina in December 2016, and the earthquakes which struck Surigao and Leyte this year.
DepEd, however, did not release the total number of damaged schools.
“What is worrisome for us are the calamity-related repairs. You know, we have requested already since last year a budget for calamity repairs, and this already ballooned to something like P2 billion. We have no allocation for calamity-related repairs,” said Pascua in a press conference on Tuesday, August 15.
The QRF was used during the administration of President Noynoy Aquino for pre-disaster and post-disaster agency needs, such as prepositioned supplies and construction materials to build classrooms.
President Rodrigo Duterte's administration removed the fund from the 2017 DepEd budget.
According to Pascua, the QRF was reallocated to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
“That’s why we have appealed this to Congress and the DBM that we be given a separate QRF. And P2 billion is enough every year to respond to disasters created by calamities,” said the undersecretary.
He said DepEd planned to speak to lawmakers and DBM officials within the week.
Pascua said they also asked for an additional P1.236 billion to finish building school projects that remain pending from 2015 to 2016.
DepEd will receive the lion's share of the proposed budget for 2018, with a requested allocation of P612.117 billion. The department will be defending its proposed budget before lawmakers on Tuesday, August 22. –


IMF cuts 2017, 2018 PH GDP forecasts

MANILA – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its Philippine economic growth forecasts for 2017 and 2018, after weak private consumption pulled down the gross domestic product (GDP) expansion in the 1st 3 months of the year.
Luis Breuer, head of the 2017 Article Mission to the Philippines that arrived in Manila last July 26, said the GDP growth forecast has been slashed to 6.6% from an earlier outlook of 6.8% this year. For 2018, the IMF sees Philippine GDP growing to 6.8%, from an earlier projection of 6.9%.
"Overall, we are very optimistic about growth in the Philippines. It's true as you point out that our growth projection was revised a little bit from 6.8% to 6.6%. The reason for that was basically math," Breuer said.
A temporary deceleration in public spending and strong base effects, following the elections last year, pulled down the GDP growth to 6.4% in the 1st quarter of 2017, from 6.6% in the 4th quarter of 2016.
"Growth in the 1st quarter was lower than anticipated and as you know, growth is measured relative to the same period last year when during [the] electoral cycle there was higher spending which led to temporarily higher growth. When you combine these factors, growth in the 1st quarter was a bit slower than expected," Breuer added.
Election-related spending boosted the GDP growth to 6.9% in 2016 from 5.9% in 2015, within the higher end of the government target of 6% to 7%.
The multilateral lender said the economic performance of the Philippines continues to be strong, featuring robust growth combined with low inflation.
Breuer stressed the need for the government to pursue the comprehensive tax reform program, provide insurance against the volatile international finance conditions, and protect investor confidence.
Inflation forecast
Inflation climbed to 1.8% in 2016 from 1.4% in 2015, well within the 2% to 4% target set by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
The consumer price index rose to an average of 3.1% in the 1st 7 months of the year, while inflation inched up to 2.8% in July from the revised 2.7% in June.
Inflation, Breuer explained, is projected at the center of the BSP target band in 2017 and 2018, reflecting stable commodity prices and a near-zero output gap.
The robust domestic demand and benign inflation environment give the BSP more flexibility in keeping an accommodative monetary policy stance.
"The current monetary stance remains appropriate, and the BSP should continue to stand ready to adjust to changing market conditions or if inflation pressure builds up," the IMF official said.
BSP Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr presided over his first rate-setting meeting as BSP chief and Monetary Board chairman last Thursday, August 10, since assuming office last July 3. –


Taguiwalo: CA rejection due to my fight vs pork barrel, tax reform

MANILA – Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) secretary Judy Taguiwalo had expected that the Commission on Appointments (CA) will reject her ad interim appointment.
“Hindi naman ako nagugulat (I was not surprised)…. I have served the people well and I gave my all, and I’m proud to say that my integrity is intact,” Taguiwalo said as she read her statement shortly after her rejection on Wednesday, August 16.
In a press conference after the CA voted to reject her, Taguiwalo said that the decision could be due to her opposition to the tax reform package and her order to limit the referrals of lawmakers for beneficiaries to access aid.
“I was not privy to the deliberations. That’s only my conjecture. What else do they want from me? I never stole money, in terms of service delivery, we tried our best to provide immediately…. What I did was I stood by the decision of the Supreme Court that there should be no pork barrel,” Taguiwalo said.
Taguiwalo issued a memorandum in August 2016, reminding DSWD personnel that recommendation letters from lawmakers and politicians have no bearing in granting aid. This met criticism from members of the House of Representatives during hearing for the department’s 2017 budget.
“I’ve reported to the President about this debate whether the lawmakers have a budget in the DSWD funds or none. What I told them is that if it is provided in the General Appropriation Act…there would be no problem about it. But for them to tell me that they have funds [for their constituents] in the budget, I told them they don’t have it,” she told reporters.
During the CA hearing earlier on Wednesday, she was also asked about her position on the tax reform package. Taguiwalo reiterated her stand that she is in favor of the income tax reform but not the excise tax on fuel and other products. She explained that the poor do not benefit from lessening workers’ take home pay because they are engaged in informal work. It’s the inflationary effects of the excise tax that will directly hit them.
Taguiwalo was visibly affected as she faced reporters, but instead made light of the heavy news by quipping that she would sing like how former environment secretary Gina Lopez took the CA’s rejection after several confirmation hearings.
She refused to sing, but the known activist and University of the Philippines professor said: “To be rejected like Gina Lopez is a badge of honor. To us, we can never say that we did not stand by our principles.”
On record, 13 CA members voted to reject Taguiwalo’s appointment as social welfare secretary. This is a little more than half of the 25-member body. Senator Francis Pangilinan, Loren Legarda, Ralph Recto, and Miguel Zubiri, meanwhile, manifested they voted for her.
Service to the people
After speaking to the media, Taguiwalo immediately went outside the Senate to meet her supporters.
It was only when she spoke to them that the secretary turned emotional.
“Kung ang batayan ng pag-confirm sa akin ay pagserbisyo sa tao, na may malasakit, na walang korupsyon, na patas, pasado ako dapat pero di ako pumasa eh. Ang posibidad lang ay tumindig ako laban sa pork barrel at tumindig ako sa economic policies katulad ng tax reform na sa tingin ko ay anti-mamamayan,” she said
(If the basis for confirming me is service to the people, compassionate and fair service without corruption, I would have passed, but I didn't. The only possibility is that I stood against pork barrel, against economic policies like the tax reform package that I view as anti-people.)
What’s next for Taguiwalo?
The retired UP professor said that she continues to support Duterte in terms of his anti-corruption pledge, progressive, and pro-people policies like free college education. She also called on the President not to give up on the peace talks. –


Govt probing suspected bird flu in Nueva Ecija

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Animal Industry will investigate suspected cases of bird flu in two farms in Nueva Ecija province.

Lawyer Alejando Abesamis, the provincial administrator, said the suspected avian flu was detected after laboratory tests on samples from a layer farm in Barangay San Roque in San Isidro town and a farm that breeds quail in Barangay Imbunya in Jaen town.

The samples have been forwarded to the BAI for confirmatory tests.

Nevertheless, Abesamis said they are in talks with the farm owners to convince them to agree to voluntary depopulation.

At the same time, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said they are studying how best to utilize chicken dung, which he admitted was becoming a problem since it cannot be shipped out of Pampanga, the epicenter of the bird flu outbreak.

He said a possibility is to process the waste into fertilizer and use this for vegetable production in lahar-covered areas.


Robredo tops Mocha’s Twitter poll on possible replacements for Taguiwalo

File photo of Vice President Leni Robredo from Philstar

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo overwhelmingly topped a survey conducted by Assistant Communications Secretary Mocha Uson on social media platform Twitter on a possible replacement for Judy Taguiwalo, who the Commission on Appointments rejected as Social Welfare secretary.

But presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said it was unlikely President Rodrigo Duterte would base his choice on Uson’s poll.

Uson asked Twitter users who they preferred to replace Taguiwalo from among Robredo, Social Welfare Assistant Secretary Lorraine Badoy, former congresswoman Nikki-Prieto Teodoro, and “others.”

A screen capture as of 11:35 a.m. showed Robredo with 81 percent of the votes, with Badoy taking only 6 percent and Teodoro with 2 percent. “Others” took 11 percent.

Screengrab of the results of Mocha Uson’s Twitter poll as of 11:35 a.m.
Asked to comment on the results, Abella said: “I’m sure the President has other ways of measuring a candidate’s capability aside from surveys.”

Asked why Robredo was not a likely choice for the Social Welfare portfolio, he said, “For the plain and simple reason that, for example she has already resigned, you know, that particular job is a Cabinet level job.”

In July last year, Duterte named Robredo to head the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, a Cabinet-level post. However, he later instructed her to stop attending Cabinet meetings after which she resigned the position.

Abella said his reply did not mean he was against Robredo. “I’m just saying that it seems to be a difficult choice,” he said.

Many netizens reacting to the survey, meanwhile, mocked Uson, saying the poll results backfired on her alleged motive to “bash” Robredo.


Pickup in Cavite accident yields dog meat

Slaughtered dogs are seen in a pickup whose driver fled after figuring in a traffic accident in Imus, Cavite. (News5 photo)
IMUS CITY, Cavite — Authorities checking a pickup truck whose driver had fled after colliding with an SUV in Imus Cuty, Cavite Thursday morning found the carcasses of 72 dogs apparently being transported to be sold as food.

Although Republic Act No. 8485, or “The Animal Welfare Act of 1998,” bans the killing of animals other than cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, poultry, rabbits, carabao, horse, deer and crocodiles except for cultural, religious, scientific and health reasons, dog meat is still consumed and is considered a delicacy by some.

Although the slaughtered animals were believed being transported to northern Luzon, Imus Mayor Emmanuel Maliksi ordered the inspection of restaurants in the city for the possible sale of the banned meat.

Aside from violating the Animal Welfare Act, the driver of the pickup, identified by police as Terry Baybay, could also be charged for violating the Meat Inspection Act, and be subject to a fine of between P5,000 to P1 million per animal and possible jail time of one to 12 years.


Customs officials name-dropped Paolo Duterte – broker

MANILA – A Customs broker who is among the key resource persons in ongoing probes into the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Monday, August 7, said one of President Rodrigo Duterte's sons was being "name-dropped"by individuals he worked with in the bureau.
Testifying during a marathon hearing by the House committee on dangerous drugs, Mark Taguba, a broker who admitted to paying some Customs personnel grease money to make shipments passthrough faster, said several of those whom he worked with name-dropped Paolo Duterte, the President's eldest son.
Paolo "Pulong" Duterte is also the Vice Mayor of Davao City, where his father was mayor for over two decades.
The vice mayor had earlier been linked by former Davao policeman Arthur Lascañas to a shipment of shabu also from China.

Charlie Tan
During a Senate probe into theDavao Death Squad only last March, Lascañas said that the younger Duterte, who was already vice mayor of Davao at the time (early 2010), asked for his help in speeding up the release of a supposed furniture shipment from China.
Lascañas said during the same hearing that a certain Davao-based "Charlie Tan", whom Paolo Dutertehad met in China, asked that he insert "souvenirs" in the container van that the vice mayor was going to ship to Davao City anyway. Paolo Duterte then suspected that drugs – shabu in particular – had been inserted in the container van, Lascañas said.
Tan was supposed to have been arrested on the spot after the van was to be opened, but according to Lascañas, Paolo Duterte instead called him up and said he would take care of Tan himself.
In an October testimony, Lascañas initially denied the existence of the Davao Death Squad and discredited another witness, Edgar Matobato. The former cop later said he was forced to deny everything and apologized to the Senate for the changes in his testimony.

Customs personnel
At the House hearing on Monday, Taguba was unable to give the full names of the Customs personnel whom he allegedly transacted with but only provided the nicknames "Tita Nani", "Jack", and "Small".
The 26-year-old Taguba had earlier been granted legislative immunity and was offered security by the House of Representatives as he testified in a legislative probe into how billions of pesos worth of shabu from China made it past the bureau. The loot was later seized by the BOC and other agencies at a Valenzuela City warehouse.
Taguba clarified that he had never spoken to the younger Duterte himself.
The vice mayor's name was mentioned during the hearing, which ended close to midnight, as legislators discussed the so-called "Davao Group" doing business at the BOC office in Davao City.
On Monday afternoon, Taguba, upon the prodding of legislators, pinpointed Customs officials whose offices had apparently been the beneficiaries of "grease money." He later clarified that he did not transact directly with the chiefs of the offices.
All of the Customs officials accused of corruption denied Taguba's allegations.
Last March, President Duterte said in a speech at the thanksgiving party of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban): "'Pag ang anak ko, anyone of them, ma-involve sa corruption, pera ng gobyerno, I will resign. Wala kayong problema sa akin. Delicadeza."
(If my children, anyone of them, will become involved incorruption, in stealing government funds, I will resign. You won't have any problems with me. Delicadeza.) –

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